Update, Sept. 29: According to a report from Diario de Cuba, Cuban authorities have detained Iglesias for attempting to defect the country.
Righthander Raicel Iglesias, one of Cuba’s top pitchers and a member of the country’s national team, has left Cuba and plans to sign with a Major League Baseball team, according to a Reuters report.
Iglesias, 23, will be exempt from the international bonus pools, so he will be able to sign without restrictions once he declares residency in another country and MLB declares him a free agent.
This past season in Cuba, Iglesias made only two starts in his 15 appearances for Isla de la Juventud, but he was impressive, posting a 1.68 ERA (sixth in Serie Nacional) with 50 strikeouts (fifth in the league) and 20 walks in 53 2/3 innings.
Igleisas, who is 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, pitched for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic and most recently for the Cuban team that played a five-game series against the U.S. college national team in July.
While Iglesias threw 88-92 mph at the WBC in March, he was more impressive on Cuba’s U.S. tour, where he threw 92-95 mph. Igelsias also added and subtracted from a sweepy 76-81 mph breaking ball, varying the shape on it to get a surprising number of swings and misses on the pitch. In three relief appearances against the Collegiate National Team, Iglesias threw five shutout innings with five strikeouts, no walks and only one hit allowed.
Earlier that month, Iglesias had also pitched for the Cuban national team at the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands, where he struck out seven with no walks in 3 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits in his three appearances out of the bullpen to pick up three saves.
Control has been an issue in the past for Iglesias, who in 2011-12 had more walks (54) than strikeouts (53) in 76 2/3 innings while maintaining a 3.29 ERA.
“I think he’s a guy that, as he gets bigger and stronger, could be in the mid-to-upper 90s,” said Team USA coach Jim Schlossnagle, who is also the coach at Texas Christian. “He’s lean, has a ridiculously loose arm and pounded the strike zone. I was glad they didn’t pitch him more. He was the guy where you’re like, ‘Let’s find a way to get a lead before they get to this guy.’ ”
Iglesias, who turns 24 on April 1, would likely begin his career in the minors after signing.